November 24, 2006

This painting by Manet has always puzzled me. It seems so out of synch with its century. It looks like it should be found in a girly mag of our day. No one I've read has ever really understood what was, or was not, going on. The following are the facts ma'am as Joe Friday used to say written by Thomas Hoving who knows as much about it as anybody.

In the Salon des Refuses exhibition, one painting in many ways marked
the beginning of the Impressionist style and was the banner of the new independent spirit: Manet's Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (1863), which depicts two fully clothed, elegant males lolling in a sun-dappled wood with one naked lady and one scantily clad lady. You probably aren't astonished that the crit­ics of the time found the subject bizarre and unseemly, but you will be puzzled to know that what struck the critics as even more hideous - some­thing even approaching moral degradation - were the fragmented colors Manet used to simulate flickering sunlight and his technique of laying paint in broad swaths.

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